INDEPENDENCE is a residential and industrial suburb located about 8 mi. south of Cleveland. Covering 9.7 sq. mi., it is bounded on the north by BROOKLYN HTS., on the west by SEVEN HILLS, on the south by BRECKSVILLE, and on the east by the CUYAHOGA RIVER and the suburb of VALLEY VIEW. Independence was incorporated as a village in 1914 and became a city in Nov. 1960.
Colonist surveys east of the Cuyahoga River began shortly after the formation of the Connecticut Western Reserve in 1796. Areas west of the river were opened to white settlement after the Treaty of Fort Industry was signed on July 4, 1805 and Indian tribes (including Ottawa, Potawatomi, Chippewa, Wyandot, Munsee, Delaware and Shawnee) were shunted further west. Independence Township, which originally straddled the river, was formed in 1814. The township’s first recorded resident (c. 1818) was Ichabod Lord Skinner, a farmer who lived around "Skinner's Hill" (later Schaaf Road). In 1839, a portion of Independence’s northwest corner was annexed to BROOKLYN TOWNSHIP.
By 1830 Independence Township had four school districts. Congregationalists were the first founders of a permanent church in the township. Baptists and Methodists followed, and a Roman Catholic church was built northwest of the center of the township in 1852.
The population was 354 in 1820. Independence Township benefited immensely when the changed when the Cleveland-Akron section of the OHIO & ERIE CANAL opened in 1827. Residents and travelers used the canal to transport produce and dairy products (see AGRICULTURE) to markets in NEWBURGH and Cleveland. Four locks were located in Independence Township, thus giving rise to small retail operations and hostelries. In the 1840s, skilled stonecutters—GERMANS, IRISH, and SCOTS— began commercial quarrying of sandstone and shale, and . by 1850, Independence was one of the nation's foremost suppliers of building stone. The pillars of Cleveland’s WEDDELL HOUSE, where ABRAHAM LINCOLN once stayed, were made of stone pulled from Independence quarries. In 1850 the township’s population was 1,485. By In 1880, when the Valley Railroad (later part of the BALTIMORE AND OHIO system) came through the area, Independence’s population had risen to 1,993. The quarries closed late in the 19th century due to competition from larger BEREA sandstone companies and the introduction of concrete as a building material. Other early advantages enjoyed by the township included rich bottom land for farming and extensive red clay deposits for manufacturing tile and pressed brick.
In 1896 the portion of Independence Twp. east of the Cuyahoga River was annexed by Newburgh. and incorporated into two villages: South Newburgh and Newburgh Heights. A western section of the township became the village of Seven Hills after Independence incorporated. By 1920 the population of Independence reached 1,075. As more highways were constructed (and later, interchanges serving Interstates 77 and 480), Independence became more industrialized. The Willow Cloverleaf at Brecksville and Granger roads, completed in 1940, was one of the first highway interchanges in the country. New businesses included the REPUBLIC STEEL CORP. Research Center, Goodrich, Gulf Chemical Co., Sperry-Univac Co., and the DAVY MCKEE CORP. During the 1970s, numerous new streets and homes were constructed. In 1970 Independence’s population was 7,034. It then dropped to 6,500 by1990, and increased again to 7,109 in 2000. At the cusp of 2020, Independence’s population was approximately 7,200.
Often referred to as Cleveland’s “second downtown” Independence remains a thriving community buoyed by freeway interchanges at its north end, easy access to Cleveland Hopkins Airport via Interstate 480, a largely affluent population, and significant amounts of parkland (including portions of the CUYAHOGA VALLEY NATIONAL PARK). The Independence Local School District operates Independence Primary School, Independence Middle School, Independence High School and the Diocese of Cleveland oversees St. Michael's Catholic School. Independence also is home to the Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine and the CLEVELAND CAVALIERS' training facility.
Updated by Christopher Roy
Last updated: 5/9/2021